Friday, September 09, 2005

No Brainer

In Poll, Most Say Abandon Flooded Areas

With no disrespect to those New Orleans residents who find this idea loathesome, isn't it kind of a no-brainer? Parts of the city have been flooded under 20 feet of toxic soup. No matter how high and how strong the levees are built, those areas will continue to sink ever-further below an ever-rising sea level. There's been a lot of talk recently about the sunk-costs argument for staying in Iraq--and how it's a lot of bunk. That's the same argument those who want to rebuild find themselves making--this city was already here, and too many people lived here to simply abandon it.

But those who are less blinded by hometown affection see the city for what it was--a convention and tourism magnet of a high-ground downtown surrounded by low-lying urban blight. If the high-ground downtown is maintained, while everyone else moves to higher ground elsewhere, the city's only viable business could carry on even as most of its people flee. There are, of course, myriad other concerns--oil and gas, in particular--but any rebuilding effort should be carefully considered and planned. Draining the water and throwing up houses in the same places isn't honoring the memories of the former city--it's throwing good money after bad.

After 9/11, we swore that we'd never again be caught unprepared. Isn't this a similar situation? Rather than trying the "build the levees so high only a perfect storm can swamp them" strategy again, shouldn't we consider doing something that will ensure that most of a major American city isn't turned into a toxic lake again in the future? Drain the flooded city out, let people return to collect whatever they can salvage, knock down everything that remains, and leave the lowlands to become what they want to become--a swamp.

Insensitive? Probably. But anything else is just setting ourselves up, at great expense, to watch the same thing happen again one day.

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